Sexual understanding and development of young people with intellectual disabilities: mothers ‘ perspectives of within-family context

28 Sep

Sexuality in others, especially family members, is just not a subject I want to consider. It’s no doubt a family culture thing. My parents have yet to have the talk about “the birds and the bees” with me, and I’m passing from middle age to that strange period in life where I’m not yet able to get discounts, but I don’t really expect to live to double my age (and isn’t that the definition of “middle” age?). Given my druthers (a word that pegs me as middle aged or older), I’d stall this intro until you, the reader, had noticeably advanced in age.

While I can put off writing about it, I have to face the fact that my kid, disabled or not, will mature. Will grow into a sexual being. How do I, a parent, address and support that?

I wish I had the answers. I wish I could put it off until some combination of school/friends/Internet/experimentation took over.

The recent paper which brought this question forward again is:

Sexual understanding and development of young people with intellectual disabilities: mothers ‘ perspectives of within-family context.

Here is the abstract:

The sexual development of young people with intellectual disabilities is a marker of their transition to adulthood and affects their sense of well being and identity. Cognitive impairments and a socially marginalized position increase dependence on their families to assist with sexual matters. In this study, the authors adopted a novel interpretive phenomenological analysis approach, asking 8 mothers to contrast their experience of supporting similarly aged siblings with and without intellectual disabilities. Acknowledgment of their nondisabled offspring’s sexuality was demanded by increasing autonomy, whereas continuing dependence of the offspring with intellectual disabilities hindered mothers who were addressing this intensely private and sensitive issue with them. The topic of sexuality brought to the forefront mothers’ fears about their offspring’s ability to cope with the challenges of adulthood

In the end, this study seems to focus on the experiences of the parents, their fears. Which is a valid subject for study. But I’m still wondering: what us the right approach for this parent to take? As with any parent, any kid, there is probably no single “right” approach. I hope that as time marches forward, some good approaches become clear.

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